The majority of Australia, including the entire central region, is semi-arid or desert and known as the ‘Outback.’ Over 40% of the landmass is sand dunes. The country’s population is concentrated on the eastern and southeastern coasts, where the climate is subtropical and temperate, respectively. The southwest corner is also temperate, while the northern region is tropical. The world’s largest coral reef, the Great Barrier Reef, is located off Australia’s northeast coast.
Australia is divided into six states and two territories: New South Whales, Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia; Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory.
Australia’s population is just over 20 million people, and the population growth rate is currently less than 1%. It has the lowest population density in the world – only two people per square kilometre. The majority of Australians are Caucasian (92%) while only about 1% of the population is Aboriginal or native peoples.
In Australia, people tend to say things in a humorous way and enjoy teasing, or ‘rubbishing,’ people, especially Americans. Australians expect punctuality for any appointments or engagements; if you are going to be late, be sure to call immediately. Even though Australia is similar to the United States, do not expect it to be exactly the same. Look for the small differences in Australian culture and learn from them rather than get frustrated over them and how it is not the same as home.
Food is much more expensive in Australia than it is here in the United States. For example, in Australia a half gallon of milk costs $3. Beef is the most common meat eaten in Australia, while chicken is relatively pricey. In the International House especially, the dining facilities serve some sort of lamb multiple times a week. Seafood is also common and very delicious in Australia. Australia’s restaurants reflect its multicultural society. Restaurants can be found for all tastes, although they are generally not cheap. Tipping policies are different from the United States’; you only tip in recognition of exceptional service.
A wide variety of religious beliefs are practiced in Australia, with no particular religion dominating all others. Catholicism is the most prevalent religion, with just over one-fourth of the population sharing Catholic beliefs. About one-fifth of the population consider themselves Anglican while the same amount practices other Christian religions. Small Buddhist and Muslim populations live in Australia, at about 2% and 1.5% of the population, respectively. Finally, over 10% of the population is unspecified regarding their religion and about 15% do not practice any religion.